By Barbara Rendel
That headline on the cover of Time magazine’s September 18, 2005, issue really caught my attention.
After all, the main purpose of my job is to raise money for a Christian university. Is it wrong to think God blesses people financially so they can be a blessing to others? Is it wrong to think my university needs money—in a sense, it needs to become rich—in order to become bigger and better and “produce” more people to win the world to Jesus and provide services to those who are in need? Is it wrong to think the university should produce great Christian business leaders who may become wealthy because of their training?
I needed to take a hard look at this. What does it mean to be “rich?” I found that people who preached about “prosperity” were using Scripture. But the people who were preaching against this idea also were using Scripture. I don’t believe the Scriptures are in conflict with each other.
Examining the Scripture behind each argument did not prove to me that either was completely in error or completely correct. I actually believe much of what each side is teaching is right.
When a person can think only about getting more and more money without regard for how to use it, he must be a very miserable but financially wealthy person.
I grew up in Sugar Tree Ridge. It wasn’t a prosperous area. However, people there taught me a lot about being rich in things that matter most.
The people in my hometown knew how to give. They knew about the things in life that matter most. They knew God and loved God. They knew about loving, giving, and caring for their family, but they also knew about loving, giving, and caring for their church, neighbors, and community. My church of only 100 or so loved people like they loved God.
Opportunities and Influence
Little did I know at the time how much they were influencing and shaping my life. I don’t believe God was saying to these people, “You need to stay poor so you will appreciate the important things in life.” I really think God gives us different abilities, choices, and opportunities to make more money. Some people love living in such a community.
Many of the youth in my little church chose ministry as a vocation. Many went to Christian colleges and went on to vocational ministries without regard for financial gain. Others went into more lucrative occupations. I feel the principles they learned while growing up in our little town led them to continue to recognize the things that mattered most after they became wealthier.
One family that moved away donated an electric organ to our little church. Because of this gift, my sister and I were given the opportunity to learn to play the organ and become church organists. We were just kids at the time and actually were “self-taught” (maybe “God taught”). My sister continues to bless that little church with her many musical talents. My “gift” has been used for many church services, weddings, and funerals.
Was it wrong for that family to move away, earn more money, and then give away some of that money? It seems to me that their money, through the gift of the organ, has blessed many.
Can God bless the smallest gift from the poorest person? Sure he can. Can he use the largest gifts from the wealthiest people? Sometimes we believe wealthy people could not have acquired so much money and be living a Christian life. But I believe God gives us diverse abilities that he can bless to make us very wealthy.
Reaching the Poor And the Wealthy
Sometimes, it seems to me, Christians focus on the very poor as the only people who need Jesus and as the people Jesus most wants to come to him. But in focusing only on the “down and outers” we forget to reach out and minister to the more affluent. They need the Lord too.
Wayne Smith is a very special person. He is the greatest example I know of a person who can truly minister to the poorest and richest. He would probably tell you that the rich who hunger in their soul sometimes appreciate a bucket of chicken given in love as much or more than the poor who are experiencing physical hunger.
We should never neglect our responsibility to the orphans, widows, lonely, and sick. But we should remember even rich people can go through such trials.
Can a church or parachurch ministry operate without money? Isn’t it wonderful people of all means can share in their financial blessings to further God’s ministries!
Some are poor, some are rich, and some are in between. But I really believe each of us has been blessed and can be a blessing to others. I also believe that being externally focused not only compels us to serve but it also compels us to give our money.
Try it, you’ll like it. Actually, you will love it! I once took a position at a Christian organization that promised to pay me very well.
We did not need the money to live on. We were not wealthy, but our needs were being met. So I told my husband that one of the reasons I would accept the job and salary was so we could give all the money away to bless others. Not only could I serve in a great ministry (in a sense, for free). We could financially bless others even more than we currently were.
What a wonderful experience!
Barbara Rendel is executive director of university advancement at Cincinnati (Ohio) Christian University.